China and Russia voted to bar the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from addressing the Security Council last week, as well as backing the calls to cease funding for the UN Human Rights Up Front initiative in 2018.
Both nations have initiated attacks against human rights institutions within the United Nations by targeting financing for UN rights programs and barring human rights defenders from speaking in UN meetings. These attacks have weakened UN efforts to protect human rights around the world.
At a UN budget committee in the past, China, with the help of Russia, led a successful effort to block a request by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to continue funding the UN Human Rights Up Front initiative. The budget committee vote has therefore cut funding for human rights monitors as well as removing a senior post in the Secretary-General’s office that was designed to ensure human rights were not neglected in the UN’s daily work. This now means that the human rights responsibilities, that were previously the responsibility of the senior official, will be spread amongst other UN bodies.
The UN Human Rights Up Front initiative was created in 2014, in response to the weak institutions that existed in the UN up to that year. This initiative is now slowly being dismantled at the order of UN Secretary-General.
The funding for the office of the high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) in Geneva has also been stripped down. The UN’s current high commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Hussein, has announced he will not continue to work in his position beyond the end of 2018. He justified his decision by saying the lack of international support for protecting human rights around the world has made his job untenable.
High commissioner Zeid was due to speak to the UN Security Council on the experiences of civilians in Syria, but he was stopped when Russia instigated a procedural vote stating that the Security Council was not the proper domain to discuss human rights. Beijing also backed this vote to prevent the high commissioner from addressing the Security Council.
Source: Guardian, Financial Times